Sin City 2010 – AEG taps Bette Midler and
national tours to fill Vegas venues well into new decade
Author: Dave Brooks
Date: January 31,2008

By 2010, at least five new venues are scheduled to be opening on
Las Vegas Boulevard as well as reconfigured spaces at two existing
venues. The MGM Grand’s City Center near the Bellagio Hotel
is expected to bring a new performance arena and permanent Cirque
de Soleil show amid 2,650 condos and 5,000 hotel rooms on the site
of the old Boardwalk Hotel.
           

           
Promotional giant AEG Live is greatly expanding its presence with a
4,000-seat performance space at the $4-billion Echelon Place
development by Boyd Gaming, planned on the old Stardust Hotel site.
AEG will also manage a flexible music box space at the facility
with a capacity between 750-2,000 seats, as well as a proposed
22,000-seat professional sports arena located near Harrah’s
hotel, capable of supporting a National Hockey League team.
     

           
Couple that with plans by AEG to book a remodeled and rebuilt Joint
at the Hard Rock Hotel, and a new resident artist show featuring
Bette Midler at the Colosseum and a picture of a city with an
abundance of programming begins to
emerge.         

           
“I think they’ll all make it,” said Pat
Christenson of Las Vegas Events, which helps produce a number of
events in Sin City each year. Christenson said there’s little
concern that the venues will cannibalize each other because the
demand for entertainment continues to grow. In 2006, Las Vegas
brought in over 38 million visitors representing $40 billion in
consumer spending, according to the Las Vegas Convention and
Visitors Bureau. That influx made for a 91 percent hotel occupancy
rate, the bureau estimated, with growing visitor rates each year
since 2001.  

           
“Vegas will continue to be successful because we don’t
build inferior venues,” he said. “What you’re
going to see emerge are different types of venues for different
types of shows.”  

           
Leading that charge will be the resident show, popularized by
Celine Dion and her five-year residency at the Colosseum that
brought in over 3 million people for 717 performances, grossing
over $385 million.
         

           
Singer Bette Midler has signed a two-year deal to perform at the
space, and AEG Live / Concerts West co-president John Meglen said
to expect more permanent shows at the Colosseum and shorter limited
engagements at the new arena.

           
“It’s one of the few cities in the U.S. where artists
can set up shop and really draw on the visitors to sustain the
demand for resident shows,” he said. “We saw Prince do
it in London with his 02 shows. There are artists like Barbra
Streisand who might only want to do a limited number of shows in
the United States and Las Vegas has flexibility to bring the crowds
from across the world, instead of having the artist go on tour to
connect with
fans.”           

           
But Meglen has made no secret of his routing plans for the city.
The new 22,000-seat arena will be another stop along AEG’s
network of arenas that include the Staples Center in Los Angeles,
the Sprint Center in Kansas City and the Prudential Center in
Newark, N.J. AEG will also use the Joint space to route its smaller
club shows, while Live Nation maintains its well-entrenched Las
Vegas presence with bookings at 2,400-seat Pearl at the Palms
Casino, along with its smaller House of Blues club at the Mandalay
Bay and a non-exclusive at the MGM Grand Garden
Arena.           

           
That presents a challenge for promoter-neutral sites like the
Thomas and Mack Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
campus and the Orleans Arena at the hotel and casino of the same
name.       

           
The new AEG arena will definitely create competition for the Thomas
and Mack Center, although Christenson said he expects the AEG arena
to bring in acts that have never played Vegas before. 

           
“From a touring perspective, it’s going to be very
difficult for the Thomas and Mack Center to compete,” said
Christensen. “But the Thomas and Mack Center has done a good
job of defining and reinventing itself. It continues to be a great
venue for the Professional Bull Riders, the National Finals Rodeo
and the Las Vegas Bowl (at Sam Boyd Stadium.). You take the touring
out of it, and it’s still a very busy
building.”          

           
In 2007, the Thomas and Mack Center generated $38 million with 66
events as reported to Venues Today Hot Tickets, including the NBA
All-Star game. Christenson said he’s also been negotiating a
neutral-site event for a large car auction that pulls in 250,000
people over eight days for $100-million worth of sales of classic
cars.        

           
Darren Davis of the Orleans Arena said his venue’s unique
size of 9,000 has put it on the radar for some Live Nation shows.
In 2007, the facility grossed $3.6 million for 24 shows reported in
the Venues Today Year-End Top Stops, but that number doesn’t
include the facility’s resident hockey team, which legend has
it has some of the meanest fans in the East Coast Hockey
League.       

           
Davis said his facility’s niche is events that target local
residents and families. In 2008, the Orleans will host the NICC
college basketball tournament, along with a Las Vegas Classic NCAA
tournament and a UNLV men’s basketball game while the
National Finals Rodeo occupies the Thomas and Mack
Center. 

           
“We’ve done some music events, but we haven’t had
a chance to even make offers” on some shows that have played
the Pearl at the Palms, he said, which is offering artists higher
guarantees, despite a configuration that is half the size of the
Orleans Arena.    

           
“It’s crazy the money that gets thrown at these
guys,” said Davis, who’s made unsuccessful offers on
Gwen Stefani, Tool and comedian Carlos Mencia. “They
can’t possibly recoup the cost on some of those shows.
There’s some
loss-leader.”      

           
Davis said his building has locked in a handful of AEG shows for
Dancing with the Stars, AVP Volleyball, My Chemical Romance and ZZ
Top. He said he didn’t expect the new AEG arena to impact his
building.          

           
“When a touring act comes to town, they’ll stick it in
the right size and for us, that’s the 5,000-9,000
range.”

 

Interviewed for this story: Pat Christenson, (702) 260-8605;
John Meglen, (323) 930-5706; Darren Davis, (702) 365-7469